Zsa Zsa Gabor

Zsa Zsa Gabor
Zsa Zsa Gabor - 1959.jpg
Gabor in 1959
Born Sári Gábor
(1917-02-06)February 6, 1917
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died December 18, 2016(2016-12-18) (aged 99)
Bel-Air, Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Actress, socialite
Years active 1934–1996
Children Francesca Hilton (1947–2015)
Parent(s) Jolie Gabor (mother)
Vilmos Gábor (father)
Relatives Magda Gabor (sister)
Eva Gabor (sister)

Zsa Zsa Gabor (/ˈʒɑːʒɑː ˈɡɑːbɔːr, ɡəˈbɔːr/ ZHAH-zhah GAH-bor, gə-BOR; Hungarian: [ˈʒɒʒɒ ˈɡaːbor]; born Sári Gábor [ˈʃaːri ˈɡaːbor]; February 6, 1917 – December 18, 2016) was a Hungarian-born American actress and socialite. Her sisters were actresses Eva and Magda Gabor.

Gabor began her stage career in Vienna and was crowned Miss Hungary in 1936.[1] She emigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1941 and became a sought-after actress with "European flair and style" and was considered to have a personality that "exuded charm and grace".[2] Her first film role was a supporting role in Lovely to Look At. She later acted in We're Not Married! and played one of her few leading roles in the John Huston-directed film, Moulin Rouge (1952). Huston would later describe her as a "creditable" actress.[3]

Outside of her acting career, Gabor was known for her extravagant Hollywood lifestyle, glamorous personality, and her many marriages. In total, Gabor had nine husbands, including hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and actor George Sanders. She once stated, "Men have always liked me and I have always liked men. But I like a mannish man, a man who knows how to talk to and treat a woman – not just a man with muscles."[4]



Early life

Zsa Zsa Gabor was born Sári Gábor on February 6, 1917[5] in Budapest, Hungary, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[5][6] The middle of three daughters, her parents were Vilmos, a soldier, and Jolie (née Janka Tilleman) Gabor.[7][8] Her parents were both of Jewish ancestry. Gabor's mother and her daughters, with the help of her daughter Magda's boyfriend, barely escaped Hungary after the Nazis occupied Budapest in 1944. [9][10][10] "For Magda's Portuguese Ambassador ... [Carlos Sampaio Garrido] ... I thank God. It was this man who saved my life."[11]

Gabor's maternal grandmother and uncle Sebastian (Annette Lantos's father) chose to remain in Budapest feeling they "had a good place to hide." However, both died during an Allied bombing raid. Zsa Zsa's three maternal aunts, Jolie's sisters, survived.[12][11] Gabor's mother was an aunt of Annette Lantos, the wife of Hungarian-born U.S. congressman and Holocaust survivor, Tom Lantos.[10][13]

According to an article written in 1961, Gabor was named after Sári Fedák, a Hungarian entertainer.[14][15] Her elder sister, Magda, eventually became an American socialite and her younger sister, Eva, would become an American actress and businesswoman.


According to Gabor, she was discovered by operatic tenor Richard Tauber on a trip to Vienna in 1934, following her time as a student at the Swiss boarding school. Tauber invited Gabor to sing the soubrette role in his new operetta, Der singende Traum (The Singing Dream), at the Theater an der Wien. This would mark her first stage appearance. In 1936, she was crowned Miss Hungary.[16]


Dancing with director Nicholas Ray (1953)

In 1944, she co-wrote a novel with writer Victoria Wolf. The fictional story was derived, in part, from Gabor's life experiences. The book was subsequently bought by an American magazine.[17] In 1949, Gabor declined an offer to play the leading role in a film version of the classic book Lady Chatterley's Lover. According to an article written the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 1949, she turned down the role of Lady Chatterley due to the story's controversial theme.[18]

Her more serious acting credits include Moulin Rouge, Lovely to Look At and We're Not Married!, all from 1952, and 1953’s Lili. In 1958, she ran the gamut of moviemaking, appearing in Touch of Evil (1958) and the camp oddity Queen of Outer Space (1958). Later, she appeared in such ditzy ditties as Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) and Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie (1984). She did cameos for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and A Very Brady Sequel (1996) and voiced a character in the animated Happily Ever After (1990).

Author Gerold Frank, who helped Gabor write her autobiography in 1960, describes his impressions of her while the book was being written:

Zsa Zsa is unique. She's a woman from the court of Louis XV who has somehow managed to live in the 20th century, undamaged by the PTA ... She says she wants to be all the Pompadours and Du Barrys of history rolled into one, but she also says, "I always goof. I pay all my own bills. ... I want to choose the man. I do not permit men to choose me."[19]

In his autobiography, television host Merv Griffin, who often squired Gabor younger sister Eva socially, described the Gabor sisters in their heyday as glamour personified: "All these years later, it's hard to describe the phenomenon of the three glamorous Gabor girls and their ubiquitous mother. They burst onto the society pages and into the gossip columns so suddenly, and with such force, it was as if they'd been dropped out of the sky."[20]

In 1973 she was the guest roastee on the Dean Martin Roast show,[21] and in 1998, film historian Neal Gabler called her kind of celebrity "The Zsa Zsa Factor".[22]

Personal life

Gabor was married nine times. She was divorced seven times, and one marriage was annulled. "All in all - I love being married", she wrote in her autobiography. "I love the companionship, I love cooking for a man (simple things like chicken soup and my special Dracula's goulash from Hungary), and spending all my time with a man. Of course I love being in love - but it is marriage that really fulfills me. But not in every case."[23] Her husbands, in chronological order, were:

  • Burhan Asaf Belge (1937–1941; divorced)[24]
  • Conrad Hilton (April 10, 1942 – 1947; divorced)[24][25] "Conrad's decision to change my name from Zsa Zsa to Georgia symbolized everything my marriage to him would eventually become. My Hungarian roots were to be ripped out and my background ignored. ... I soon discovered that my marriage to Conrad meant the end of my freedom. My own needs were completely ignored: I belonged to Conrad."[23]
  • George Sanders (April 2, 1949 – April 2, 1954; divorced)[24][26]
  • Herbert Hutner (November 5, 1962 – March 3, 1966; divorced)[27][28] "Herbert took away my will to work. With his kindness and generosity, he almost annihilated my drive. I have always been the kind of woman who could never be satisfied by money -- only excitement and achievement."[23][29]
  • Joshua S. Cosden, Jr. (March 9, 1966 – October 18, 1967; divorced)[30]
  • Jack Ryan (January 21, 1975 – August 24, 1976; divorced)[31]
  • Michael O'Hara (August 27, 1976 – 1983; divorced)[32]
  • Felipe de Alba (April 13–14, 1983; annulled)[33]
  • Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt (August 14, 1986 – December 18, 2016; her death)


Gabor arriving at a movie premiere in 1962

Gabor's divorces inspired her to make numerous quotable puns and innuendos about her marital (and extramarital) history. She commented: "I am a marvelous housekeeper: Every time I leave a man I keep his house."[34][35] When asked, "How many husbands have you had?", she was quoted as responding, "You mean other than my own?"[34] Gabor later claimed to have had a sexual encounter with her stepson, Nicky.[10]

In 1970, Gabor purchased a 8,878-square-foot Hollywood Regency-style home in Bel Air, which once belonged to Elvis Presley, and which was the location where the Beatles visited Presley in 1965. It was originally built by Howard Hughes[36] and featured a unique-looking French style roof. In June 2011, it was announced that Gabor placed the house for sale as it had "gotten too big to manage" for her. Originally put up for sale for $15 million, it was reduced to $12.9 million, and then pulled from the market. In 2012, the house was listed for sale again, at $14.9 million.[37][38][39]

Gabor's only child, daughter Constance Francesca Hilton, was born on March 10, 1947.[25][40] According to Gabor's 1991 autobiography One Lifetime Is Not Enough, her pregnancy resulted from rape by then-husband Conrad Hilton. She was the only Gabor sister to have had a child.[10] In 2005, a lawsuit was filed accusing her daughter of larceny and fraud, alleging that she had forged her signature to get a US$2 million loan on her mother's Bel Air house. However, the Santa Monica Superior Court threw out the case due to Gabor's failure to appear in court or to sign an affidavit that she indeed was a co-plaintiff on the original lawsuit filed by her husband, Frédéric von Anhalt. Francesca Hilton died in 2015 at the age of 67 from a stroke.[41][42] Gabor's husband never told her about her daughter's death, out of concern for her physical and emotional state.[43][44]

Gabor and her last husband Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt adopted at least ten adult males who paid them a fee of up to $2,000,000 to become descendants by adoption of Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt. Prinz von Anhalt had paid Marie-Auguste to adopt him when he was 36 years old. [45]

On April 11, 2016, Gabor expressed her wishes to move back to Hungary during 2017 to live out the rest of her life there. Her husband stated that he was determined to make her wish come true and that he intended to arrange for "a big party in the summer" to celebrate the actress' 100th birthday, after which she would return to Budapest.[43]. Gabor died before this plan could be carried out.

Legal difficulties

On June 14, 1989, in Beverly Hills, California, Gabor was accused of slapping the face of Beverly Hills police officer Paul Kramer when he stopped her for a traffic violation at 8551 Olympic Boulevard.[46]

On September 29, 1989, it was announced that a jury convicted the actress of slapping a police officer, driving without a license and possessing an open container of alcohol—a flask of Jack Daniel's—in her $215,000 Rolls-Royce, but also acquitted her on charges of disobeying officer Kramer when she drove away from a routine traffic stop.[47]

On October 25, 1989, it was announced that Beverly Hills Municipal Judge Charles G. Rubin had sentenced Gabor to serve three days in jail, to pay fines and restitution totaling $12,937, to perform 120 hours of community service—and to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.[48] On June 14, 1990, Gabor decided to drop her conviction appeal and agreed to serve her sentence.[49] However, Gabor refused to take part in community service and served three days in jail between July 27 and July 30, 1990.[50]

Gabor also had a long-running feud with German-born actress Elke Sommer that began in 1984 when both appeared on Circus of the Stars and escalated into a multi-million dollar libel suit by 1993.[51]

2009 financial problems

On January 25, 2009, the Associated Press reported that her attorney stated that forensic accountants determined that Gabor may have lost as much as $10 million invested in Bernie Madoff's company, possibly through a third-party money manager.[52] However, official records of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York reportedly do not list Gabor as a victim of the Ponzi scheme.[53]

Later life and health

On November 28, 2002, Gabor was a front seat passenger in an automobile crash in Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, from which she remained partially paralyzed and reliant on a wheelchair for mobility. She survived strokes in 2005 and 2007 and underwent surgeries. In 2010, she fractured her hip and underwent a successful hip replacement.[54][55]

In August 2010, Gabor was admitted to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in serious condition and received last rites from a Catholic priest.[56][57]

In 2011, her right leg was amputated above the knee to save her life from an infection.[58] She was hospitalized again in 2011 for numerous emergencies.[59][60]

On February 8, 2016, two days after her 99th birthday, Gabor was rushed to hospital after suffering from breathing difficulties. She was diagnosed with a feeding tube-related lung infection and was scheduled to undergo surgery to have her feeding tube removed.[61][62]


Gabor died of a heart attack at her home in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, on December 18, 2016, aged 99.[63] She had been on life support for the previous five years.[64]

She is survived by husband Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, whom she wed in 1986 and who claimed titles of nobility for himself, his wife and a number of adoptees.[65]



Year Film Director Note
1952 Lovely to Look At[66] LeRoy  
We're Not Married![67] Goulding  
Moulin Rouge[67] Huston  
1953 The Story of Three Loves[68] Minelli  
Lili[67] Walters  
L'ennemi public no. 1 (The Most Wanted Man) Verneuil  
1954 Sangre y luces (Love in a Hot Climate) Rouquier/Suey  
3 Ring Circus[67] Pevney  
1956 Death of a Scoundrel[67] Martin  
1957 The Girl in the Kremlin[69] Birdwell  
1958 The Man Who Wouldn't Talk Wilconx  
Country Music Holiday[69] Ganzer  
Touch of Evil[67] Welles  
Queen of Outer Space[67] Bernds  
1959 For the First Time Mate  
Pepe[1] Sidney  
The Road to Hong Kong[70] Panama Cameo
Boys' Night Out[67] Gordon  
1966 Picture Mommy Dead[67] Gordon  
Drop Dead Darling[71] Hughes  
1967 Jack of Diamonds[72] Taylor  
1972 Up the Front Kiliett  
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood[73] Winner  
1978 Every Girl Should Have One Hyatt  
1984 Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie Gold  
1987 A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors[74] Russell Cameo
1992 The Naked Truth[69] Mastorakis  
Happily Ever After Blossom voice only
The Beverly Hillbillies[75] Spheeris Cameo

Television (abridged)

Year Series Role Notes
1953 Jukebox Jury Musical Judge  
1955 The Red Skelton Show Movie Star  
Climax![69] Mme Florizel, Princess Stephanie  
December Bride[69]    
1956 The Milton Berle Show[76] Herself March 13, 1955
The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford Herself October 18, 1956
1956–1961 General Electric Theater Flora  
1957 The Life of Riley Gigi  
What's My Line?[77] Mystery guest August 18, 1957
Playhouse 90 Erika Segnitz, Marita Lorenz  
The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom Herself  
1958 Shower of Stars[78] Herself March 20, 1958
1959 Lux Playhouse Helen  
The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Herself  
1960 Ninotchka    
Make Room for Daddy Lisa Laslow  
1962 Mister Ed[69] Herself  
1963 The Dick Powell Show Girl  
1963–1964 Burke's Law Anna, the Maid  
1965 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Pilot  
Gilligan's Island Erika Tiffany Smith  
1966 Alice in Wonderland (or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?)[1] The Queen of Hearts voice
The Rounders Ilona Hobson Episode "The Scavenger Hunt"
F Troop Marika  
1967 Bonanza[79] Madama Marova May 7, 1967
1968 My Three Sons[80] Herself  
Rowan & Martin's Laugh In[80] Herself  
The Name of the Game Mira Retzyk  
Batman[81] Minerva March 3, 1968
1969 Bracken's World Herself Cameo
1971 Mooch Goes to Hollywood Narrator Voice
Night Gallery Mrs. Moore  
1976 Let's Make a Deal Home Viewer  
1979 Supertrain Audrey Episode "A Very Formal Heist"
1980 The Love Boat Annette  
1981 The Facts of Life Countess Calvet  
As the World Turns Lydia Marlowe cast member
Matt Houston    
1983 California Girls    
1988 Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special    
1989 It's Garry Shandling's Show[67] Goddess of Commitment  
1989 The Munsters Today[82] Herself  
1990 City Babette Croquette  
1991 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air[83] Sonya Lamor  
1994 Late Show with David Letterman[69] Herself Sketch
1994 This Is Your Life Herself Tribute


Gabor occasionally appeared in theatre. From 1961 to 1970, she portrayed Elvira in national tours of Blithe Spirit. In 1970, she made her Broadway debut in Forty Carats.[84]

From 1971 to 1983, Gabor appeared in national tours of Forty Carats, Bell, Book and Candle, Blithe Spirit, Arsenic and Old Lace (with her sister, Eva), Finders Will Return, and Ninotchka. Finally, in 1993, she portrayed the Fairy Godmother in UCLA's staging of Cinderella.[85]

See also


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Further reading

  • Gabor, Zsa Zsa; Frank, Gerold (1960). Zsa Zsa Gábor: My Story. Cleveland, Ohio: World Pub. Co. OCLC 1069078. 
  • —— (1970). How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. OCLC 92114. 
  • ——; Leigh, Wendy (1991). One Lifetime Is Not Enough. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-29882-X.  [An abridged audio-cassette of the book, read by Gabor and produced by Susan E. Perrin, was published by Simon & Schuster, in 1991.]
  • Turtu, Anthony; Reuter, Donald F. (2001). Gaborabilia: An Illustrated Celebration of the Fabulous, Legendary Gabor Sisters. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-609-80759-5. 

External links